UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and UQ graduate Shea Spierings. Credit: The UN
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and UQ graduate Shea Spierings. Credit: The UN
11 November 2015

From concreter to Australian Youth Representative to the United Nations, University of Queensland graduate Shea Spierings is on a mission to help improve education prospects for young Australians.

Mr Spierings has just returned from New York, where he delivered the Australian Statement on Youth Issues to the United Nations (UN) General Assembly – urging nations to place education at the top of their policy agendas.

The Bachelor of Arts graduate said his consultations with thousands of Australian youth had revealed their key concerns were education, employment prospects, substance abuse, racism and discrimination, and gender inequality.

 “Having a diverse work history has proved invaluable when engaging with the youth of today, who come from a variety of backgrounds and possess a variety of lived experiences and aspirations,” he said.

“I was working as a concreter and steel fixer, then as a security guard before I started my degree at UQ.

“While at UQ, I realised that I could easily align my passion for social justice with my interest in political science and empower myself to become an agent for social change.

“The UN role has given me the opportunity to make Australian youth more visible in Australian society and the rest of the world.”

In his address, Mr Spierings outlined the role of education in ensuring Australian society remained peaceful, tolerant and inclusive.

He said Australian youth were resilient and determined, and that he would continue to encourage support for youth-led initiatives and programs that seek to address seemingly intractable social issues.

“The perspectives and experiences of youth need to be incorporated into future policy-making processes if we hope to address many of the social issues currently facing Australian society.”

Mr Spierings is now developing policy recommendations to be delivered to the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and published online in December.

Mr Spierings was also one of 193 young people from around the world, including Nobel Laureate Malala Yousefzai, to attend the Opening Ceremony of the UN Sustainable Development Summit, where His Holiness Pope Francis delivered an historic address to the UN.

See earlier reports on Shea Spierings here. Watch a video of Mr Spierings’ address to the UN.

Media: Shea Spierings, shea.spierings@unyouth.org.au; Caroline Bird, UQ Communications,c.bird1@uq.edu.au07 3365 1130.